November 26, 2023

Portland Students Headed Back to School After Historic Strike

Notably, the tentative contract gets rid of mandatory minimum suspensions, which contribute to disproportionate rates of suspension for Native and Black students.

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On Sunday, Portland Association of Teachers and the Portland Public School District announced a tentative agreement on contract negotiations — ending a historic, nearly month-long strike and sending students and teachers back to the classroom Monday, Nov. 27.

The tentative contract agreement addresses many teacher demands, including a cumulative cost of living increase and new class-size thresholds, according to a letter released by the Portland Public School District.

Notably, the tentative contract also gets rid of mandatory minimum suspensions, which contribute to disproportionate rates of suspension for Native and Black students.

The letter from the district says the new contract “replaces mandatory minimum suspensions with trauma-informed processes that will get students the support they need.”

Education experts say the district’s previous method for issuing suspensions was too subjective – based on a teacher perceiving a threat, or fear of harm. The result was that students of color were far more likely to be suspended than white students across the district, particularly Black and Native American students.

That has an impact far beyond students' experiences in middle and high school.

“Disproportionate rates of discipline are actually leading to systemic poverty,” said Tamara Henderson, Laguna Pueblo, chief operating officer at the Native American Youth and Family Center and president of the Oregon Indian Education Association.

Read more about mandatory minimum suspensions and disproportionate rates of discipline for students of color in previous Underscore coverage.

Lead image: Hundreds of teachers, parents, students and supporters rallied together for the first day of the Portland teacher strike at Roosevelt High School in North Portland. Mark Graves/The Oregonian

About the author

Nika Bartoo-Smith

Nika is a journalist with a passion for working to provide platforms for the voices and experiences of communities often left behind in mainstream media coverage. Most recently, she worked as the health and social services reporter at The Columbian in Vancouver, Washington. Prior to working at The Columbian, Nika spent the summer of 2022, after graduating magna cum laude from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism, working as a Snowden Intern at The News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon. A descendant of the Osage and Oneida Nations, Nika was born and raised in Portland. Her favorite way to unwind is by trying a new recipe, curling up with a good book or taking a hike in one of the many green spaces around Portland.

Twitter: @BartooNika

Email: nbartoosmith@underscore.news

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